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Smooth Operators

A couple of years ago a friend of mine, her six-year-old daughter and her sister-in-law were driving into town for a spot ofshopping, when the little girl piped up with the type of utterance that gets six-year-olds a bad name.

It went something along the lines of: “Aunty Mary, Mammy said to Daddy the other day that your moustache reminds her of a man called Tom Selleck.”

An uncomfortable silence ensued in the car for a long 10 seconds, until the little one piped up again: “When are you going to shave it?”

It's no great surprise to say that the relationship between the in-laws never quite recovered from that particular incident.

Women have been trying to get rid of facial hair since time began. When I was in my 20s it was strip waxing; little bits of fiddly paper with gelatinous glue on the back that stuck to your fingers, the hairs up your nose and the taps on the sink as you tried to wash it off. Nowadays the wax is lighter, but back then it was so strong it reefed everything off, including the skin on the upper lip. The pain was searing and many women took to drinking a couple of vodkas to numb themselves before they even made an attempt to defuzz their facial hair.


For girls with less mettle in their backbone there was always bleaching, which was great for those with downy hair on their upper lip and chin. The bleach coloured the hair so fair that it blended into the background of the skin.

You could feel it, but you couldn't really see it. This was okay during daylight hours, but not so good when you were in a slow clinch with some young fella at a disco that had strobe lighting.

As Jane Birkin moaned over the words of Je t'aime, your face caught the full beam of the lights, which only served to enhance the bleached down, giving you the appearance of having more facial hair than a Colobus monkey.

The knock-on effect of this was that the guy you were wrapped around suddenly put on his coat and hitched a lift home — on his own.

Then some bright spark came up with electrolysis. If they had carried out electrolysis instead of waterboarding in Guantanamo Bay, that prison would have been closed down years ago. If Padre Pio had undergone the procedure instead of having to endure the stigmata, he would have been fast-tracked to sainthood much quicker. And if I had any sense, I wouldn't have done it.

The overriding memory of electrolysis in those days was the smell of burning flesh as the beautician administered a series of electric shocks that ran from your upper lip, down through your pelvic area and into your toes. As I lay on the plinth, my body twitching with a number of aftershocks, I couldn't help but think that being a female of the slightly hirsute kind was hard work. I stuck with it for six sessions and then gave up — unlike the stray hairs which reappeared more times than Lindsay Lohan at a courthouse.

Pubic hair is another story. By its nature it remains unseen for most of its life but, for some reason, in the past 10 years, nellies have gone down the topiary route as if they were contestants in the Chelsea Flower Show. First we had the bikini wax which evolved into the landing strip. Then we had the full Brazilian wax which defuzzed the entire area, so that nellies ended up looking like plucked chickens ready for the oven. Now women will be able to permanently remove their pubic hair using laser.

The procedure has been dubbed the ‘laser flange' and if the thought of that doesn't make your eyes water, nothing will. Not for me, thanks.

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I did think about threading or laser treatment for facial hair, but they sound as if there might be pain involved. Then, just as I thought I would spend my middle age looking like Nanny McPhee, news has emerged from Hollywood that leading actresses are moving away from laser and threading after discovering a novel and painless way to bash the moustache. Instead of booking themselves into the beauty salons they are now — wait for it — borrowing their partner's razor and shaving!


Yes ladies, you didn't misread it. Shaving your facial hair is now out of the closet and set to become mainstream and, what's more, it's as cheap as chips to carry out. According to Kate Somerville, a facialist for some of the acting industry's most famous names who have taken up this practice (she's too polite to say exactly who): “Shaving rids the face of that fine fuzz that laser hair removal can't pick up.”

Surely all that shaving is bad for your skin? Dr Michael Prager, a dermatologist to A-list celebs, disagrees. He says: “The shaved area of a man's skin is younger looking then the rest of his face because of the constant exfoliation which stimulates collagen. Plus, a fuzz-free face reflects the light.”

But what about bristles and stubble and a fiveo'clock shadow? Kate Somerville is reassuring in this regard. “It doesn't grow back thicker or darker,” she says. “That's an old wives’ tale.” So there you have it. Forget booking appointments with beauty salons. Forget having your hair electrocuted, lasered or threaded. All you need is a razor, some lathering cream and a very steady hand!